Have you ever force-fed a cat?

For Moriarty’s backstory check out this post from November 2017.


Moriarty, my fearless Tiny Cat, my Tiny Baby Kitten, my Morty-Cat, has traveled quite the road since we adopted him less than two years ago. When we adopted him, he was recovering from the removal of an ulcer in his right eye. We gave him eye drops multiple times each day until it healed, resulting in his gorgeous, big-eyed, symmetrical face. He was an absolute treasure in our household, always asking us to “pet me while I eat!”, sitting on my lap while I worked, following me from room to room just to be close, and constantly forcing love on Benny, our dog, despite Benny’s obvious distaste for catlove.


In November of last year, less than two weeks after the birth of our first child, Morty developed glaucoma in his left eye. I distinctly remember that one evening, he went to jump from the table in our kitchen that holds the microwave and coffee maker to the kitchen table, just two feet away, and he wiped out. I was holding our new son, heard Moriarty hit the table, and saw him crash-land on the floor and then lope away. I thought, “cats wipe out sometimes, no big deal”. Except that a few days later, I noticed that his left eye was doing that cat-eye-reflecting thing all of the time. Usually when you notice that a cat’s eye is reflecting, both eyes are doing it and the lighting is dim, but his eye was in a constant state of reflection. I thought this was odd, so I kept a close eye on him over the next few days, during which his left eye began to swell. 


Our veterinarian diagnosed him with glaucoma and gave me some eye drops to use to reduce the swelling. We gave two different eye drops twice a day for more than three months in hopes of beating the glaucoma, and we visited the vet four times before finally deciding to remove his eye. It had swollen to more than double its original size and we were confident that not only could he no longer see out of it, but it would begin causing him pain sooner than later. So in mid-March, we scheduled his enucleation. It was a huge relief to the whole family, probably especially to Moriarty, as he no longer had to endure all the eye drops, some of which were painful.


Morty had absolutely no trouble adapting to life as a one-eyed cat. He could run and jump and play and do all the things he could before. He was beautiful and happy. Until a few weeks ago, when we noticed that he wasn’t eating much, was peeing very dark urine on the dog bed and baby armchair, was acting a little lethargic, was hiding/sleeping in odd places, had almost overnight turned from a pleasantly plump kitten to a bony, frail-feeling cat with a dirty coat, and was throwing up little clear puddles. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but assumed he had a UTI since that’s what I always assume when cats pee turns brown and appears outside their litter box. 


I scheduled an appointment with the vet and got a urine sample (yes, it’s possible to get a urine sample from a cat: I closed him in the bathroom for most of the day with food, water, and a litter box with dry beans). It turns out that he had lost nearly threepounds since his enucleation in March, weighing in now at only seven-and-a-half pounds. They drew blood and ran tests on the blood and urine…and came back with almost nothing. Our vetsaid he’s slightly anemic but that he has no idea why, and that his liver isn’t great. No UTI or bladder infection. He told us that it appears that he’s in the beginning stages of fatty liver disease. This condition occurs when a cat becomes anorexic (doesn’t eat) for as little as just a couple of days. When they don’t eat, even for such a short period of time, the liver gets busy burning everything it possibly can and fat builds up, causing the liver to swell and turn yellow. They said he’s in the “beginning stages” because his liver hasn’t reached that point – he is showing no signs of jaundice. To start fighting back and saving his liver (without which he will die), they gave him steroids, antibiotics, and fluids, and gave me an emergency prescription diet of high-protein, high-calorie canned food. 


Have you ever force-fed a cat? It’s harder than obtaining a urine sample, plus teeth and 18 expertly-sharpened claws.


Moriarty is eating the prescription diet, sometimes willingly, sometimes by force, and he’s started picking his favorite pieces out of the kibble bowl. He gained back 0.1 pound this week. He’s still sleeping and peeing dark urine in odd places, but has started “hanging out” with us in common spaces and sitting in my lap when I’m working from home again. Petting him still feels like petting a furry dinosaur because he has absolutely no fat between his skin and his bones. His coat looks a little better, and he has only thrown up once this week. And he’s still not jaundiced, though he’s definitely anemic (which means his blood volume is low).


We saw the vet again today, and he still isn’t sure what’s wrong. He mentioned FIA (Feline Infectious Anemia), which is basically a parasite that replicates rapidly and attaches to individual red blood cells, causing anemia because the body works hard to identify, isolate, and eradicate the infected blood cells. He also mentioned a bone marrow disorder, and said he’s treating for this, though making a true diagnosis is extremely difficult. Bone marrow is responsible for creating new red blood cells; when there is a bone marrow disorder, a side effect would be anemia. 


Honestly, I feel like we’re grasping at straws. The tests turned up nothing, and the symptoms are obviously not clear enough to point to any specific ailment. Testing for FIA is nearly impossible because of the nature of the parasite, and I have no idea how you’d test for a bone marrow disorder. So we got more steroids, some pills to give daily, more prescription canned food, and another appointment in four days. 


I’ve been slowly trying to come to terms with the possibility of losing my tiny baby kitten while staying strong enough to remain committed to forcing food every couple of hours, constantly observing him, and taking him to the vet every week. 


He’s only two years old and the past two years with him have been one of the many highlights of this period of my life. Our home would not be the same without his one-eyed face peering around corners and his sweet “mew” asking us to pet him while he eats, so we are doing everything we can to help and support him through this struggle.



Have you struggled through hard diagnoses with your pets? Tell me about it in the comments!


Don’t forget to subscribe to In Kim’s Words to find out what happens to Moriarty!

2 thoughts on “Have you ever force-fed a cat?

  1. I had a cat named Charlie Mingus who lived to be 19 years old. The final months of his life he lost the ability to manipulate his tongue which meant he could not swallow. He was, essentially, starving to death. When I realized he was loosing a lot of weight rather rapidly, I brought him to the vet and she prescribed some food that she said was especially tasty and which might invigorate his ability to eat. After having watched him unable to eat for day, even though he tried constantly, it was a miracle to see him wolf down this food. I though we had the solution. But it turned out that was the last time Charlie was able to eat. The vet determined that he likely had a brain stem tumor which was incapacitating his him.

    So, the prognosis was fatal and it was just a matter of time before he would whither away. But I kept hope alive that every time he went to the food bowl, this time he would overcome the odds. But alas, it was not to be. I called my vet a few different times to come make that final house call, and each time I canceled her visitation, believing he was going to turn a corner. But finally, it was so overwhelmingly obvious that he was starving to death, and the newspaper all over my kitchen strewn with food bites that he had taken and then was able to swallow, made it woefully apparent that I was only prolonging the inevitable. So, I made that final call to the vet, and this time did not cancel it.

    She came with her assistant and gave one look at Charlie and probably wondered why I’d waited so long – denial is the reason. He was so dehydrated that she had extreme difficulty getting the syringe engaged for that initial tranquilizer shot before the final sleep shot. But he got to spend his last days at home and he died in my arms. My vet – Dr. Fisher Keller (Laketown Animal Hospital) treated him like the family member he had been to me, and wrapped him in a towel and carrying him out gently and with great dignity. I was ever grateful for her, & her assistant’s, kindnesses and for not rushing anything. They even let me talk about how he came into my life and little stories about him after he’d passed and let me cry.

    Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to know when to let go and stop their suffering.

    I hope kitty gets better, but if things keep going down, I hope you are able to send him off with love and kindness.


    “In and out, up and down, over and over she wove her strands of her life together, patching hole after hole, eventually she saw it was much more than the threads that gave her strength, it was in the very act of weaving itself, that she became strong…” Terri Bone Sigh Arts


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry you had to go through this with your dear friend and companion. It’s truly heartbreaking and the denial is so easy. Thank you for sharing your story, Pamela. ❤️


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